Emancipation

An often addressed issue between divorcing parents is who is going to pay for the children’s college education and related expenses, and in what proportion.  When the issue is litigated, a court will generally look to the twelve factors enunciated in the Supreme Court’s 1982 Opinion of Newburgh v. Arrigo.  Resolutions between parties may include a number of possibilities, including dividing the costs in proportion to the parents’ respective incomes, abiding the event, etc.  Settlement agreements also typically contain language requiring the child to apply for scholarships, grants, loans and other forms of financial aid to stem the blow.  College funds or other types of savings accounts might have been established for the children that are to be applied before any additional financial obligation befalls on the parents. Each of these different mechanisms is designed to protect the children, ensure proper education, while also considering the parent’s financial circumstances as well, which are often altered following a divorce due to additional expenses, new families, legal fee debt and the like.

The next question, forming the basis of this blog post, is what obligation do parents have to contribute to graduate school?  Does a parent have an obligation to pay for a child’s law school tuition?  How about medical school?  This infrequently addressed issue in the court system was recently taken on by the Appellate Division in Schambach v. Schambach, a very interesting decision containing an analysis in a concurrence/dissent that merits in-depth discussion.

Continue Reading Graduate School – Who Pays?

Oftentimes, people seeking to modify downward their child support payment obligation will seek to do so as of the date that they allege the change in financial circumstances commenced, i.e., a loss of employment, suffering a disability, and the like.  To protect the existing "duty of support," however, New Jersey has a statute that expressly addresses the retroactive modification of child support payments.

N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.23a clearly states:

                [n]o payment or installment of an order for child support, or those portions of an order which are allocated for child support established prior to or subsequent to the effective date of [N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.23a], shall be retroactively modified by the court except with respect to the period during which there is a pending application for modification, but only from the date the notice of motion was mailed either directly or through the appropriate agent.  The written notice will state that a change of circumstances has occurred and a motion for modification of the order will be filed within 45 days. In the event a motion is not filed within the 45-day period, modification shall be permitted only from the date the motion is filed with the court.

The law is, therefore, clear – retroactive implementation of a child support modification may only be made back to when the other party is put on written notice that a change of circumstances has occurred and a motion to address the issue will be filed within 45 days of such notice.  Where the motion is not timely filed within that 45-day period, the retroactive implementation may only be made back to the date when the motion is actually filed. 

Continue Reading When and How Can Child Support Be Retroactively Modified?

Recently, I addressed the question as to when a child is emancipated under the eyes of New Jersey law.  As I indicated there, the New Jersey Supreme Court defines emancipation as "the act by which a parent relinquishes the right to custody and is relieved of the duty to support a child."  Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982). A related question also addressed by the Court in Newburgh is a parent’s obligation to contribute towards a child’s postgraduate education expenses.

The Supreme Court in Newburgh set forth a non-exhaustive list of factors for a court to consider in determining a parent’s obligation to contribute to such educational expenses.  These factors were subsequently codified by statute at N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(a) as follows:

1. Whether the parent, if still living with the child, would have contributed toward the costs of the requested higher education.

2. The effect of the background, values, and goals of the parent on the reasonableness of the expectation of the child for higher education.

3. The amount of the contribution sought by the child for the cost of higher education.

4. The ability of the parent to pay that cost.

5. The relationship of the requested contribution to the kind of school or course of study sought by the child.

6. The financial resources of both parties.

7. The commitment to and aptitude of the child for the requested education.

8. The financial resources of the child, including assets owned individually or held in custodianship or trust.

9. The ability of the child to earn income during the school year or vacation.

10. The availability of financial aid in the form of college grants and loans.

11. The child’s relationship to the paying parent, including mutual affection and shared goals as well as responsiveness to parental advice and guidance.

12. The relationship of the education requested to any prior training and to the overall long-range goals of the child.

Continue Reading From Emancipation To College Expenses – What Is A Parent’s Financial Obligation?

A question faced by all parents is, when is a child emancipated in the eyes of the law?  As set forth by the New Jersey Supreme Court,  “emancipation is the act by which a parent relinquishes the right to custody and is relieved of the duty to support a child.”  Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982).  The question and answer therefore have far reaching financial implications.  However, emancipation does not occur at a fixed age.  Rather, the inquiry is fact-specific.

This issue was recently taken on by the Appellate Division in the matter of Brandes v. Rigney, an unpublished opinion finding that the trial court applied improper legal principles in concluding that a child was emancipated.  The parties at issue had three children before they were divorced in 1997.  In 2004, the father, Brandes, sought to have the parties’ sons emancipated.  The parties’ oldest son, Raymond, was born in 1982, while the other son, Eric, was born in 1985.  The trial court denied Brandes’ motion at that time.

Continue Reading When Is A Child Emancipated Under New Jersey Law?